Bengali–Assamese script

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Bengali-Assamese
Siva-1.JPG
The text, from the 18th century Hastividyarnava, commissioned by Ahom king Siva Singha, says: sri sri mot xiwo xingha moharaza. The Bengali glyph "" presently used for ra is used here for "", the Assamese glyph for va just as in modern Tirhuta.
Type
LanguagesAssamese, Bengali, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Meitei, Sylheti, Santali, Kokborok, Garo, Hajong, Chakma, Chittagonian, Maithili, Angika, Kamtapuri and others.
Time period
c. 1100–present
Parent systems
DirectionLeft-to-right
ISO 15924Beng, 325
Unicode alias
Bengali
U+0980–U+09FF
[a] The Semitic origin of Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

The Bengali–Assamese script (also Eastern Nagari script[1]) is the fifth most widely used writing system in the world. It is the basis of the Bengali, Assamese and Tirhuta as well as the alphabets for Bishnupriya Manipuri, Kokborok (Tripuri) and Meithei (Manipuri). Other languages, such as Angika, Bodo, Karbi, Maithili and Mising were once written in Bengali–Assamese script.[2] Modern Sylheti is often written using this script as well. It was originally used to write Sanskrit, and the use of this script for Sanskrit continues in Eastern India.

Description[edit]

The Bengali—Asamese script was originally not associated with any particular regional language, but was prevalent as the main script in the eastern regions of Medieval India. The script was also used to write Sanskrit. Epics of Hindu scripture, including the Mahabharata or Ramayana, were written in older versions of the Eastern Nagari script in this region. After the medieval period, the use of Sanskrit as the sole written language gave way to Pali, and the vernacular dialects of Pali eventually evolved into Bengali, Assamese and other related languages. Sankardev used the script in the 15th and 16th centuries to compose his oeuvre in Assamese and Brajavali the language of the Bhakti poets; and before him, Madhava Kandali used it to write the Assamese Ramayana in the 14th century. It was also used by the later Ahom kings to write the Buranjis, the Ahom chronicles, in the Assamese language. There is a rich legacy of East sub-continental literature written in this script, which is still occasionally used to write Sanskrit today.

Clusters of consonants are represented by different and sometimes quite irregular characters; thus, learning to read the script is complicated by the sheer size of the full set of characters and character combinations, numbering about 500. While efforts at standardizing the script for the Bengali language continue in such notable centers as the Bangla Academy at Dhaka (Bangladesh) and Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi at Kolkata (West Bengal, India). It is still not quite uniform as yet, as many people continue to use various archaic forms of letters, resulting in concurrent forms for the same sounds. Among the various regional variations within this script, only the Bengali and Assamese variations exist today in the formalized system.

It seems likely that the standardization of the script will be greatly influenced by the need to typeset it on computers. Work has been underway since around 2001 to develop Unicode fonts, and it seems likely that it will split into two variants, traditional and modern.

Script[edit]

In this and other articles on Wikipedia dealing with the Assamese and Bengali languages, a Romanization scheme used by linguists specializing in Assamese and Bengali phonology is included along with IPA transcription.

Vowels[edit]

The script presently has a total of 11 vowel letters, used to represent the seven vowel sounds of Bengali and eight vowel sounds of Assamese, along with a number of vowel diphthongs. All of these vowel letters are used in both Assamese and Bengali. Some of the vowel letters have different sounds depending on the word, and a number of vowel distinctions preserved in the writing system are not pronounced as such in modern spoken Bengali or Assamese. For example, the script has two symbols for the vowel sound [i] and two symbols for the vowel sound [u]. This redundancy stems from the time when this script was used to write Sanskrit, a language that had a short [i] and a long [iː], and a short [u] and a long [uː]. These letters are preserved in the script with their traditional names of "short i" and "long i", etc., despite the fact that they are no longer pronounced differently in ordinary speech.

Two additional modified Vowels, অ' and অ্যা, are not considered letters of the Eastern Nagari script, but are often used in Assamese and Bengali (respectively) to represent certain vowels when the intended pronunciation would otherwise be ambiguous.

Vowel Table
Vowels Vowel Diacritic
symbol
Assamese Bengali Bishnupriya
Manipuri
Meitei
Manipuri
[1]
Sylheti Hajong Rabha Rajbongsi
ô ô/o ô ô/a o o ô ô
অʼ ʼ o
a a a a꞉ a a a a
অ্যা/এ্যা ্যা æ
অৗ â â
ি i i i i i i i i
ইʼ িʼ î
i i i ī (i)
u u u u u u u u
উʼ ুʼ â
u u u ū (u)
ri ri ri ri ri
rii rii
li li
lii lii
ê e/ê e e ê e e ê
এʼ েʼ e
ôi ôi ôi ei oi oi ôi
û o u o/ô ô o o
ôu ôu ôu ou ou ôu ôu

Vowel signs can be used in conjunction with consonants to modify the pronunciation of the consonant (here exemplified by , kô). When no vowel Diacritic symbol is written, then the vowel "" (ô) is the default inherited vowel for the consonant. To specifically denote the absence of a vowel, a hôsôntô (্) may be written underneath the consonant.

Consonants[edit]

The names of the consonant letters in Eastern Nagari are typically just the consonant's main pronunciation plus the inherent vowel "" ô. Since the inherent vowel is assumed and not written, most letters' names look identical to the letter itself (e.g. the name of the letter "" is itself ghô, not gh). Some letters that have lost their distinctive pronunciation in Modern Assamese and Bengali are called by a more elaborate name. For example, since the consonant phoneme /n/ can be written , , or (depending on the spelling of the particular word), these letters are not simply called ; instead, they are called "dental nô", "cerebral nô" and niô. Similarly, the phoneme /ʃ/ in Bengali and /x/ in Assamese can be written as "palatal shô/xhô" , "cerebral shô/xhô" , or "dental sô/xô" , depending on the word.

Consonant Table
Consonant Assamese Bengali Bishnupriya
Manipuri
Meitei
Manipuri
Sylheti Hajong Maithili
xo ko
khô khô khô khô xo kho khô
go go
ghô ghô ghô ghô go gho ghô
ungô ngô ngô ngô ngo ngo
so co
chô chô so so -
𑒕 - chô
zo jo
zhô jhô jhô jhô zo jho -
𑒗 jhô
niô niô
ţô ţô to
𑒙 ţô
thô ţhô ţhô to ţhô
đô đô do -
ড় ŗô ŗô ŗo
dhô đhô đhô do -
ঢ় rhô ŗhô ŗhô ro
no - -
ṭo to
thô thô thô thô ṭo tho thô
ḍo do
dhô dhô dhô dhô ḍo dho dhô
no no
fo po
phô fo fo -
𑒙 phô
bo bo ra
bhô bhô bhô bhô bo bho bhô
mo mo ma
zo - ya
য় yo
(wô) ro va
(rô) ro ro
lo
𑒪 la
o wo
şô şô - shô
şşô şşô - sshô
şô şo -
ho ho -
𑒯 -

Digits[edit]

Digits
Western Arabic numerals 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Bengali numerals
Assamese names xuinno ek dui tini sari pãs soy xat ath no
শূন্য এক দুই তিনি চাৰি পাঁচ ছয় সাত আঠ
Bengali names shunnô æk dui tin char pãch chhôy shat nôy
শূন্য এক দুই তিন চার পাঁচ ছয় সাত আট নয়
Meitei names shunya ama ani ahum mari manga taruk taret nipa꞉n ma꞉pan
শুন‍্য অমা অনি অহুম মরি মঙা তরূক তরেৎ নীপান মাপন
Sylheti names shuinno ex dui tin sair fas soe shat/hat noe
শুইন্য় এখ দুই তিন ছাইর ফাছ ছ​য় সাত/হাত আট নয়
Maithili names shūnyô ek du tin chari pãch chhô: sat aţh nôu
শূন্য এক দু তিন চাৰি পাঁচ ছঃ সাত আঠ নউ

Unicodes[edit]

There are two Unicode blocks for Bengali-Assamese script, called Bengali and Tirhuta. The Bengali block is U+0980–U+09FF:

Bengali[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+098x
U+099x
U+09Ax
U+09Bx ি
U+09Cx
U+09Dx
U+09Ex
U+09Fx
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

The Tirhuta block is U+11480–U+114DF:

Tirhuta[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1148x 𑒀 𑒁 𑒂 𑒃 𑒄 𑒅 𑒆 𑒇 𑒈 𑒉 𑒊 𑒋 𑒌 𑒍 𑒎 𑒏
U+1149x 𑒐 𑒑 𑒒 𑒓 𑒔 𑒕 𑒖 𑒗 𑒘 𑒙 𑒚 𑒛 𑒜 𑒝 𑒞 𑒟
U+114Ax 𑒠 𑒡 𑒢 𑒣 𑒤 𑒥 𑒦 𑒧 𑒨 𑒩 𑒪 𑒫 𑒬 𑒭 𑒮 𑒯
U+114Bx 𑒰 𑒱 𑒲 𑒳 𑒴 𑒵 𑒶 𑒷 𑒸 𑒹 𑒺 𑒻 𑒼 𑒽 𑒾 𑒿
U+114Cx 𑓀 𑓁 𑓂 𑓃 𑓄 𑓅 𑓆 𑓇
U+114Dx 𑓐 𑓑 𑓒 𑓓 𑓔 𑓕 𑓖 𑓗 𑓘 𑓙
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ ". In fact, the term 'Eastern Nagari' seems to be the only designation which does not favour one or the other language." (Brandt 2014:25)
  2. ^ Prabhakara, M S Scripting a solution Archived 10 July 2007 at the Wayback Machine, The Hindu, 19 May 2005.

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  • Banerji, R D (1919). The Origin of the Bengali Script. University of Calcutta.
  • Bora, Mahendra (1981). The Evolution of Assamese Script. Jorhat, Assam: Assam Sahitya Sabha.
  • Brandt, Carmen (2014). "The identity politics of language and script in South Asia" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 May 2017.
  • Verma, Thakur Prasad (1976). Development of Script in Ancient Kamrupa. Asam Sahitya Sabha.